I've had enough.
It’s April 20, 1999. My junior year of high school. I have a rare free afternoon, so I race home from school to watch General Hospital before the rest of my family gets home. I turn on the TV and instead see kids my age climbing out of a window, onto the the top of an armored car. I sit on my couch in an empty house and watch kids running from the school with their arms on their head. In the days that follow, we hear about the students that died in Columbine High School, and about the horror experienced by those who hid.
It’s spring of 2000. My senior year. In response my high school institutes lockdown and evacuation procedures and we have to use them three times, once after a threat is found scrawled on a bathroom wall.
It’s November, 2004. I’m preparing to student teach, and one of the final hurdles I have to pass before I’m able is to conduct a piece with the bands at my university. I choose American Elegy, by Frank Tichelli. He wrote it in response to the tragedy at Columbine High School.
It’s April 2005 and I have to run my first lockdown drill with the students in the school where I student teach, finding spaces for them to hide. Practicing for the day when an active shooter arrives at their school.
It’s May 2007 and I have to teach a class of kindergarteners the same skill in a music classroom. There are no desks. We crouch in the corner, trying to get as far away from windows as we can. Their drill ends, and I walk back to the high school, where I learn that the lockdown drill has not ended. There is no way for me, the band director traveling between buildings, to know this.
It’s September 2007 and I’m teaching band in a new city. I learn that the school where I spend my afternoons has no loudspeaker, only a PA system that routes through our phones. My phone is in another room, and I teach band. We will never hear the announcement for a lockdown, so the school counselor has to leave the safety of his office and walk to my room to alert us.
It’s September 2011 and the school counselor is cut to half time. He only works in the morning, and there is only one other class taking place in our hall while I teach band. There is no one to tell us if a lockdown is happening. Students make jokes about using stands to beat anyone unexpected who comes through the door.
It’s December 14, 2012. I have a three month old son and am no longer teaching. My husband is a band director in a new city. He is working late, so I am sitting on the couch, alone in our house, holding my son and crying as I learning about the tragedy that has taken place at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’m afraid for my husband who is in schools every day, and my son who will one day be a kindergartener, just like many of those killed.
It’s August 2015, and I start my first day working at a nonprofit, supporting a public school. I learn that the district recently passed a bond to upgrade technology and buildings, and to add more secure front entrances to every school. I get my picture taken for the ID that I will have to wear every time I enter a school building. I get my key fob which will unlock the buildings that I’m allowed to walk into without asking for permission first.
It’s May 2016 and I drive back to my office to find the one of the Deputy Superintendents blocking the driveway. The school has been locked down due to a gunman on the ball field. I wait across the street with the Director of Food Services. She tells me that the kitchen staff has locked themselves in the cooler.
It’s September 2016 and the first round of secure front entrances are done. Now, if someone wants to do harm and they end up being allowed into the school building, the first line of defence is the school secretary. I can’t help but look at the mostly women who do this job for our schools and think, “they didn’t sign up for this”.
It’s October 2, 2017 and I wake up to notification after notification about another shooting in Las Vegas. I feel numb all day. It’s happened again. We’re told it’s not time to talk about the tool that was used to take so many lives. I can’t help but wonder when it will be time as I sit in the administration building of another district, where we have been placed under a lockdown while the police search for an armed robbery suspect.
It’s October 5, 2017 and the numbness fades. I’m angry. Maybe it’s because I get an alert for the next lockdown drill at the school where I work. I decide that perhaps everyone should have to perform this bit of security theater twice a year. Maybe then we wouldn’t move off the topic so often. I look up old Facebook posts to see how often I’ve talked about lockdown drills, and see another post from October 6, 2015. I don’t remember a mass shooting in 2015, and I have to google the date. Umpqua Community College, October 1, 2015. Ten dead. I feel a little less human for having forgotten.
It’s October 19, 2017 and the news has moved on. Perhaps it’s now ok to open a dialogue about what is to be done about the “tool” that was used in Las Vegas. But maybe now is not the time. We’ve got Trump disrespecting the widow of a fallen soldier, and his fight with Sen. Corker, and health care, and Weinstein. A music professor once told me that people have trouble listening to more than one thing happening in a piece of music at any given time. Maybe the same is true for paying attention to news stories.
It’s October 19, 2017 and I’ve had enough. Because I went into education, mass shootings have shaped my daily life since that clear day in April 1999. I’ve had it. My question for every lawmaker who wants my vote from here on out is simple: What is your plan to stop mass shootings?
It’s October 19, 2017 and I hope you’ve had enough too.